Why He’s On Our Radar: Tom Six’s “The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)” will no doubt sear countless freaky images into your memory, but none of them will frighten you as much as the face of Martin, the mute madman at the center of the carnage. Played with full-on ferocity by bug-eyed British actor Laurence Harvey, not to be confused with the other Laurence Harvey, the performance anchors a film you won’t likely forget.
IFC Midnight opens “The Human Centipede 2 (Full Senquence)” beginning October 7 in theaters and on demand October 12.
More About Him: He had moved back in with his parents when he was cast in the film, his first feature.
What’s Next: “My biggest hope for right now is that Guy Maddin sees the film and gives me a call.”
This is your first feature film. What have you done previously?
I’ve been involved in performance arts over the last 20 years. I started to work with one performance artist who began doing children’s television in the early ’90s in the UK. I’ve done some short films – but they’re not on YouTube or anything – and some video work from galleries. But, yes, this is my big debut.
Well, this is quite a departure from the children’s stuff. How did you get the role?
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Tom Six called about eight or nine people. He’d been going through the actor’s directory, looking for faces. I think everyone in the film was cast based on their faces. Tom Six has a really good eye for characters.
There’s also not a lot of dialogue in the film…
Well, originally, my character was supposed to have some lines. He was meant to repeat some of the things said by Dr. Heiter in the first film, but when I did the casting, I didn’t have to talk, so when I went to the second casting, Tom Six said, “It was wonderful what you did! I’ve taken all the dialogue out!” In a sense, that helped, because I started to approach the role as silent comedy, but sort of deadpan like Buster Keaton. I was worried that you wouldn’t have sympathy for somebody who bashes someone’s brain in the first time you see him on screen, so I figured that because silent comedy often has an underdog as its lead character, I hoped that kind of performance would resonate.
What was the audition process like?
Usually, you go to an audition and it’s under five minutes, and if it’s longer than ten, you’re doing a good job, but I was in there for 50 minutes, because Tom and Ilona [Six, the film’s producer] were really enthusiastic and delighted and I was feeding off of that. It was a mutual delirious enthusiasm; it was good fun. It was the best casting I’ve ever been to.
Had you seen the first film?
Oh, yes, about an hour and a half before. The fact that Dieter Laser was so brilliant was in the back of my mind. They were pretty big shoes to fill. I was still wondering whether they had gotten the right person. I’m mainly a character actor, but they wanted someone who was the physical opposite of Dieter and keep a character actor. Tom was interested in the theater and performance art background I have, and they knew Dieter from theater and German dramas.
Were you a bit cautious, given the content of the film?
Well, it’s a pretty disgusting idea, but what I saw in the first film… I heard it was kind of a Cronenberg body horror film, but it kind of isn’t. It feels like a more traditional Boris Karloff mad scientist film. It does have that body horror element, with the characters being so physically close to each other and orifices being interchangeable and attachable. I loved the way he handled it in the first film. It feels like such a sleazy film without showing anything. With this one, he wanted it to not feel like a sleazy film, but he wanted to go much further with the violence and all the things you’d normally associate with a sleazy film. It was kind of the opposite of the first film. I was so glad he didn’t want to do a carbon copy of the first film. He wanted to reverse it.
This film certainly goes much further than I ever expected. When I saw it, the entire audience was screaming and turning away and I saw a lot of walkouts.
It’s a visceral experience. It’s definitely an ordeal for the audience. The first one was about the tropes of the horror film, whereas this one is about the tropes of reception. A lot of people complained that there wasn’t enough gore and violence in the first one, and there was some anger among some kinds of horror fans. With this film, Tom just wanted to give it to them, but in a way that played up the absurdity of someone copying the things they see in a horror film by taking it to such an over-the-top extreme.
What did you think about the statement that the BBFC released when they announced the film would be banned in the UK?
When I first heard the news, I was excited. I’ve always been interested in censorship from an academic point of view. I grew up during the “Video Nasties” campaign of the 1980’s, and we got a VCR after that, but all my friends had already seen “I Spit On Your Grave” and “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” I had to wait until I was older. I’d been interested academically, and now I’m involved in it, and the reality is that it’s very frustrating and annoying rather than this great cause celébre. Ai Weiwei was in prison at the time and there was a big anti-censorship cause, so I think we should get our priorities straight. It’s so ridiculous. The BBFC decision reads like a 1980’s feminist film journal rather than an objective report by a classification board. And if you compare it with the last film they banned, the Japanese film “Grotesque,” the press release for that was just a short paragraph. That didn’t go into any detail about the plot and it didn’t discourage the director.
Our release had insults against Tom, it rubbished the first film, and rubbished the whole notion of the film, saying that only perverts would go see it. They said it was liable to deprave and corrupt a significant portion of the population, but “Jersey Shore” and Katie Price already do that! They’ve done more damage to world culture than this little horror film will! They’re already corrupting a greater section of society. Horror is a niche genre. People know if it’s a gory horror film or not, and they’ll decide to see it based on how strong their stomachs are. In recent years, the BBFC had been overturning a lot of their decisions from the past and becoming more inclined to regard genre films for their unique audience rather than dismissing them because they don’t like them.
When we were making it, I did think that the moments of self-abuse in the film would get trimmed or excised from the British release. Those scenes are the only scenes of sexual violence in the film. Rape is always about power, and the film deals with a character that doesn’t have any power, and finds it by identifying with Dr. Heiter and building the centipede, and he’s driven to those extremes because every authority figure around him has abused him and fucked him over. So, his imaginary father figure is Dr. Heiter, and he tries to prove himself worthy. In order to have dominance over the centipede and, in a way, to join it and be part of it, he rapes the centipede. I don’t think he sees it as rape, because I don’t think he has any notion of empathy or shared experience, because of his childhood abuse.
Well, the rape scene is cut from the American release, but it must feel strange to see the film banned outright in your home country.
Oh, well, I should admit that I did arrange it. My mother wanted to see it, and I just thought, No way, so I slipped somebody a fiver!